The monsoon is here. We no longer need to look at the skies and wonder what we did to deserve living in an inferno. On a more serious note, farmers are heaving a sigh of relief because their crops depend on the seasonal rains.
During the monsoon, one of the best things to do – instead of venturing out in the traffic and waterlogged streets – is to sit on your balcony or near a window and let the rain splatter your face while you sip a hot cup of “chai,” or as we say in Bengal, “cha” – and as the rest of the world says, “tea.”
I cook a lot and am quite good at whipping up fancy fare like roasts and cherry clafoutis and murgh pasanda. But the real test of my culinary skills has always been to prepare the perfect cup of chai. There isn’t one cup that suits everyone. Some people like it black, some like it with a dash of honey, some like a blend and others like it masala, the perfect comfort chai.
If you don’t boil, steep or brew just right, you’ll be left with a tasteless brown liquid or a bitter black brew.
Here’s a list of my favourite ways of making tea. I’m sure everyone has their own twist to the perfect cuppa, so let us know. Sharing, after all, is caring.
My Tip 2 Comfort chai
This is the chai you get on railway platforms and at most people’s homes. It’s lovely and the perfect cup to sit with while wondering why every day can’t be a rainy day. For this you must not use long leaf loose tea because the chai needs to be brewed for a while. You can’t boil or brew loose leaf tea because it just becomes bitter. Get yourself some good Assam blend. I use Tata Tea Gold.
· If you’re making six cups of tea, you’ll need seven level teaspoons of tea.
· Place six cups of water and one cup of milk in a pan. Set to boil.
· While the water and milk is on the hob, add one teaspoon of freshly grated ginger, two green cardamoms that have been bashed so the skin is bruised, and a one inch stick of cinnamon. Tweak the spices to your taste (a British friend told me the taste of cardamom reminds her of soap, and it’s reminded me of soap ever since as well.) Some people even add two or thee peppercorns. I don’t.
· Add the tea leaves. Stir.
· As the tea comes to the boil, turn the flame low. Let the brew simmer for five minutes.
· Take off the flame, strain and pour into individual mugs or into a thermos flask. Add sugar to taste. Otherwise add six teaspoons of sugar to the entire brew while boiling
For my Mallu people in a hurry....I will give a tip
If you love your tea but really can’t be bothered to brew, steep, pour and tweak, don’t worry. Buy a good brand of tea bag like Tetley or Twinings. One of my favorite mixes is with Earl Grey, which has a unique and absolutely delicious taste. However I find it too weak a liquor and too fragrant on its own, so I’ve made my own blend.
· Take a teabag of Earl Grey.
· Take a teabag of Assam tea.
· Place both in a tea cup.
· Pour boiling water over the two bags and cover the cup with a saucer.
· Leave for three to four minutes, maximum.
· Take out the tea bags, squeeze them against a teaspoon to remove all the liquor. Chuck the bags.
· Add a teaspoon of sugar and milk to taste (although I don’t put more than two teaspoons of milk at most.)
· Sip. And feel blissed out.